As if to further the global agenda to kill off all sedans in favor of yet more SUVs, two of Audi’s three reveals at this year’s NAIAS were crossovers (the third was the new S5 Cabrio).
By 2015, the mid-size Q5 represented a quarter of Audi’s annual sales. It only stands to reason the Ingolstadt company has high hopes in its pursuit of another record year ahead. While not a volume leader, the pricier, high performance SQ5 nevertheless helps line the coffers at Audi.
The 2018 SQ5 TFSI starts with the Q5 platform but adds credence to its more aggressive styling by dropping in the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. This powerplant delivers 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, with a claimed 0-62 mph time of 5.4 seconds.
Unsurprisingly, all SQ5s will drive all four wheels through the Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system, but an optional sport differential will allow the SQ5 to actively distribute torque between the rear wheels. Variable-ratio steering is available through the optional dynamic steering system and becomes part of the Audi drive select system, which also enables drivers to tune the state of throttle, transmission shift speed and suspension stiffness to suit their particular sporting mood.
An air suspension will also be available for the SQ5 allowing varying ride heights in the interest of allowing this sporty-ute to actually make it down the rutted cottage lane buyers will expect it to traverse when it arrives in dealerships in the second half of this year.
The other new Audi crossover shown in Detroit is the flagship Q8 Concept. While not production ready yet, the Q8 Concept appears representative of the SUV expected to start populating parking lots of Whole Foods and private golf clubs in the near future.
Despite being based on Audi’s largest sedan platform – the A8 – the Q8 Concept is only a four-seater with squat styling claimed to evoke the emotion of a coupe. Audi’s design folks apparently drew inspiration from the revered Ur-quattro race car from the 1980s, referencing the wide, flat C pillars and the broad flares over the wheel arches. While the Q8 Concept is certainly visually arresting, the parallels to a classic rally car are lost on me. That said, while photographing the Q8, several representatives from a renown Italian automotive design house spent considerable time poring over the Audi, so maybe it takes a trained eye to fully appreciate the nuances.
The Q8’s chin spoiler boldly displays the e-tron wordmark, declaring the plug-in hybrid nature of the concept’s drivetrain. Based on a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 mated to an electric motor, the system’s total output is reported at 516.3 lb-ft of torque and will be able to travel short distances on battery power alone.
The ride/handling trade off will be managed by an air suspension, with ceramic disc brakes completing the suite of dynamic components, and of course Audi’s latest safety and infotainment tech is sprinkled throughout the Q8.
The Q8 Concept is expected to morph into the production model for 2018.